At roughly the age of 16, Patricus, as he referred to himself, who had been born into a wealthy and influential family in Roman Britain, was kidnapped by Irish Pirates.
Although he was the son of a deacon and the grandson of a priest, Patricus himself was not a believer. But after being kidnapped, he was enslaved and held captive for six years. During those six years, he rediscovered the faith of his parents and converted to Christianity. At the end of his captivity, he heard a voice telling him that would soon return home and that his ship was ready. He acted – he ran away from his master, travelled to the first port he could find, and was able to gain passage on the ship. After six long years of slavery and a spiritual rebirth, Patricus returned home to Britain.
Once home, he continued to study Christianity, eventually feeling called to full-time ministry. After completing his training, Patricus felt God’s call to return to Ireland to minister to the very people who had enslaved him.
And the rest, as they say, is history. (Of course, the whole story is history – approximately 1500 years old!) Patricus, or Padraig, in Irish, had an incredible ministry in Ireland, and eventually came to be recognized by the Catholic Church as St. Patrick.
An important part of St. Patrick’s ministry to the Irish was his wisdom in bridging gaps between Christianity and Druidic folk practices of the Irish people.
One of the ideas to come out of his “bridging” was the idea of Caol Ait (pronounced “kweel awtch”). Caol Ait is a Gaelic term that means “thin places.” The concept is that there are certain places in this world where the barrier between this physical world and the spiritual world are thin – in other words, places where the supernatural is more easily accessible.
Originally, the concept was one of pagan spirituality – thin places were considered to be places where the dead, and angels and demons, something Other than this world, is easier to access. But Christianity has come to understand thin places as places that are holy – places where the invisible, transcendent Kingdom of God – the supernatural – is somehow closer and easier to access.
The truth is that God is Omnipresent – He is everywhere. But He also manifests His Presence more tangibly at some times and places (think of Jacob’s encounter at Bethel; Moses on Mt. Hermon; the disciples at Pentecost; times and places where Jesus ministered when “the power of the Lord was present to heal.” Consider the Lord’s Supper, where somehow, the bread and cup represent the body and blood of Jesus – a tangible expression of His Presence. Consider the gathering of the Church – the body of Christ on earth.
And consider worship, which as we looked at on Wednesday, draws heaven’s presence.
Worship is you and me together praising God for Who He is, for what He does – and in doing so, we create a “thin place” – a place where heaven touches earth.
My dream for our fellowship is that together, we would create multiple thin places in our region – in our Sunday gatherings, in our Life Groups, in our own homes, in our own lives, in our workplaces. Thin places where those around us can easily access the Presence of God and encounter Jesus, the Living Way, Truth, and Life.
As you worship today; as you prepare for celebrating Palm Sunday this weekend – be mindful of Caol Ait. Together, let’s live and love and serve and worship and by our choices, make thin places all around us where people can encounter Jesus. And let’s continue on Sunday mornings to seek His face, to make space for Him to speak and to move and to minister and to heal.
Together, let’s seek His Presence. Together, let’s create a thin place as we gather on Sunday morning.
(Note – I know that YESTERDAY was St. Patrick’s day. However, last night, in our Worship Team Life Group, we had an important discussion about what God is currently doing in our services, and about making space for God. We thought it was no coincidence that on St. Patrick’s day, God drew us into a discussion of thin places. And so, even though I had already written my devotional for today, I decided to write this and share it with you. I hope God uses it to speak to you this morning.)